A new service launching today is designed to make it easier for people who express suicidal thoughts on Facebook to get help.
Users will be able to make instant connections with crisis counselors through Facebook chat.
“One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible,” Fred Wolens, public policy manager at Facebook, told The Associated Press.
How the service works is if a friend spots a suicidal thought on someone’s page, he can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook then sends an email to the person who posted the suicidal comment encouraging them to call the hotline or click on a link to begin a confidential chat.
Facebook on its own doesn’t troll the site for suicidal expressions, Wolens said. Logistically it would be far too difficult with so many users and so many comments that could be misinterpreted by a computer algorithm.
The AP story points to recent high-profile incidents of people posting suicidal thoughts on Facebook.
Last month, authorities in California said a man posted a suicide note on Facebook before he killed his wife and in-laws then himself.
In July, police in Pennsylvania said they believed they were able to help prevent a man’s suicide after the man’s friend in California alerted police about a distraught Facebook posting. Police met with the man, who was committed to a hospital.
What do you think — can Facebook help?